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Tesla’s Model Y SUV is the world’s best-selling car this year. Should it be, though?

Tesla’s successive price cuts have made the Model Y (and, even more so, the Model 3) sit rather differently in the marketplace

Tesla Model Y
Tesla Model Y
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Year: 2023
Fuel: Electricity
Verdict: Better than it was, but still not as sharp as a No 1 ought to be

You know that sensation, when you’ve been on a frankly disastrous date with someone in the past, and fate, circumstance or Tinder somehow throws you back together again? Yeah; that. The last time I met the Tesla Model Y, it would be fair to say that the affair didn’t catch fire, and it resulted in a two-star rating, driven mostly by the fact that the Y didn’t drive especially nicely, and its cabin rattled and clattered like a 200,000km Ford Transit, not a €60,000 cutting-edge electric SUV. Sorry, darling - it’s not me, it’s you.

Three significant things have happened in the intervening months that make it worth popping on the glad rags and nipping to the nearest florist, however. It’s always galling to see someone you’ve rejected go on to huge success, and that’s what’s happened here — since I jilted the Model Y, it has become 2023′s best-selling car. In the world.

Secondly, Tesla has — as is its wont — been tweaking and updating the Y, and while it’s not yet getting the huge round of Project Highland updates that the Model 3 saloon has received, improved suspension and a smidge more range are worth investigating. Equally, of course, Tesla’s successive price cuts have made the Model Y (and, even more so, the Model 3) sit rather differently in the marketplace. It’s not silly to describe the entry-level €46,990 Model Y as something of an EV bargain at this point.

Having checked myself for bad breath and body odour, it’s off to the (entirely metaphorical) restaurant to see if romance (again, metaphorically) can be rekindled.


The first impressions are slightly mixed. I’ve never been a fan of the Model Y’s somewhat amphibian styling, but the optional Deep Blue Metallic paint is rather nice, and does set the shape off as well as it can.

Tesla Model Y

That our test Model Y is riding on the standard 19-inch Gemini wheels is also good, as it means that the suspension will get the best chance to show off how much it’s been improved. While I may not be the keenest on the styling, there’s no doubt that the Model Y exudes a certain premium desirability, partly or entirely because of the sheer notoriety of the company and its, ahem, mercurial boss.

Inside, someone had ticked the black-and-white interior box, so the seats were upholstered in a strikingly bright white “vegan leather” (vinyl to you or me) with matching plastic panels on the dashboard.

The Model Y’s interior remains strictly minimalist, with only a handful of physical buttons — window switches, column stalks, steering wheel scrollers, and the legislated-for hazard lights switch mounted in the roof. Tesla is even trying to get rid of some of those, as the updated Model 3 ditches the gear-selecting column stalk in favour of an awkward combo of touchscreen gear selection, and a predictive AI that attempts to pick the right gear for you. Good luck with that…

Tesla Model Y

The big 13-inch touchscreen is a good screen, but I’m not 100 per cent convinced that it’s a good instrument panel. It’s easy enough to find your way around, and the menu structure and layout can still teach a few lessons in logic to other car makers. It’s also packed with features, including the much-hyped built-in video games (to while away charging times) and the whoopee cushion setting, which still reduces my kids to helpless laughter.

However, I still feel that combining the infotainment screen with your speed readout, and other driver-centric information, is a mistake.

Volvo is now at this too, with the new EX30, and while it’s not any particular effort to flick your eyes to the centre of the cabin to read the speedo, the problem is that when you do so you’re apt to be distracted by what else is on the screen. A small readout behind the wheel, or a heads-up display, would be much better, I can’t help but think (and the rival Ford Mustang Mach-E’s layout seems to confirm). It’s also too bright and distracting at night, even on the lowest dimmer setting, and it’s still too fiddly to do simple things such as adjust the cabin temperature or side mirror positions.

On the upside, the surround camera system is excellent, and displays in hi-def, but there’s no forward-facing image, which can be a limitation, and the lack of ultrasonic parking sensors (Tesla relies entirely on software that extrapolates the distance to an object from the camera image now) means that tight spaces can be more of a chore than they ought to be.

The rest of the Model Y’s cabin is largely good. I find the front seats lack proper support, but there’s tonnes of space both for you and anything you’re carrying, thanks to huge storage areas in the centre console. There’s masses of space in the back seats, and there’s greater comfort levels than you might expect. The 854-litre boot is also huge, although the newly-available luggage cover is a bit fiddly and awkward. The 117-litre “frunk” in the nose puts most other car makers to shame.

Underneath, the Model Y sticks with the same 75kWh (usable) battery as before, although constant updates to the battery chemistry and electronic management have squeezed out a few more kilometres of range, giving you 533km on a full charge. Now that’s notably less than you get from the updated version of the Skoda Enyaq (which will stretch to 580km if you go for the incoming new Coupe version with the latest 280hp rear-mounted motor) and it’s also some 100km less than the Model 3 saloon offers with the same battery.

On the upside, the Model Y is very efficient. We easily averaged 18kWh/100km without even trying to drive economically, and you should be able to put a solid 450-500km between charges, even in cold conditions with the cabin heat going. Charging is also a Tesla specialty, and the 250kW Supercharger network makes long journeys a breeze, and shows you how much the rest of the EV world still has to catch up.

Tesla Model Y

Ah, but what about the driving experience — the bit that soured the relationship last time out? It is definitely better, but for my money the Model Y still isn’t delivering the kind of comfort, nor build quality, that you really ought to expect for a machine costing the €65,000 of our test car.

Overall quality has definitely taken a step up, but even so there were still some very noticeable rattles and squeaks coming from the back of the Y’s cabin over urban bumps. You simply won’t find the same in a rival Skoda, VW, Audi, Hyundai or Kia product - even the cheap-looking Mustang Mach-E’s cabin is less rattle-prone than this.

The alterations to the suspension have also been partially successful. The Model Y now rides a little more comfortably (helped by the 19-inch rims) and it feels a touch slicker and smoother to steer, but again problems remain. Particularly at urban speeds and on urban roads, the Y still bumps, thumps and fidgets too much for true comfort, and it does take away from the premium feel when you’re being jostled around like that.

So, the ultimate question remains at the end of the date: snog, marry, avoid? Well, I think I’ve moved up and away from simply avoid; the Model Y is definitely better and more satisfying in the round than it was when last I drove one. Marry, though? Not quite, I’m afraid. Too many question marks over quality. Those cabin rattles would drive me insane after a week. Which leaves only…

Lowdown: Tesla Model Y Long Range

Power: 286kW twin-e motors developing 389hp and 500Nm (estimated) of torque, powering all four wheels via a single-speed automatic transmission

CO2 emissions (annual motor tax): 0g/km (€120)

Electric consumption: 16.9 kWh/100km (WLTP)

Electric range: 533km (WLTP)

0-100km/h: 5.0sec

Price: €65,607 as tested, Model Y starts from €46,995

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe

Neil Briscoe, a contributor to The Irish Times, specialises in motoring